After approving a flat levy in December, the McHenry County Conservation District passed a “maintenance budget” at its meeting Thursday evening, its finance director said.
A flat levy means the district isn’t bringing in any additional money over last year, so the budget focuses on maintaining the 25,023 acres under the district’s umbrella instead of creating any new initiatives.
The amount of land has grown by 4,322 acres since 2007, when voters approved the issuance of $73 million in general obligation bonds, $62.5 million of which was earmarked for land acquisition.
But over the same amount of time, the number of district full-time employees equivalents has grown to 90.3 from 88.7.
“The district has had to become very lean and very efficient,” Finance Director Andy Dylak said. “We couldn’t continue this growth. We’re right at our capacity.”
The budget passed Thursday includes $28.4 million of total expenditures through its six funds, a decrease of 8.4 percent from last year. Of that total, $12 million goes toward paying off bonds and $9.4 million is the general fund, from which the district pays most of its operating expenses.
Things could get tighter next year as McHenry County’s equalized assessed value – a number based on a property’s value that is used to calculate property taxes – continues to drop, Dylak said.
The Illinois Conservation District Act caps the amount the district can levy for its general fund at one-tenth of 1 percent of the county’s EAV.
When the district’s board of trustees passed its levy in December, the district was $575,000 away from the cap. This week, though, the updated EAV for the county was released with a 10 percent drop.
The district does have savings it can dip into until the number starts to rise again, Dylak said. It also can continue some of the cost-saving measures it has implemented, including limited attrition and shifting some insurance costs onto employees.